On a chilly mid-March day, SAHC’s Anderson Farm was host for an AmeriCorps service day. Fourteen AmeriCorps Project Conserve members, currently serving at host sites throughout Western North Carolina, came together on SAHC’s Community Farm to lend their hands in building a trail on the 100 acre property.
The SAHC Community Farm property lies just 15 minutes to the north and west of Asheville within the Newfound Creek watershed, an impaired waterway as identified by NC Division of Water Quality. Years of timbering and intensive cattle grazing have impacted the pastures, forests, and waterways of this property. Since acquiring the farm, we have begun the process of revitalizing the agricultural and conservation assets on the property.
We are currently reforesting a clear-cut section of the farm with shortleaf pine, a declining species in NC, which will be used as a demonstration stand. We are also working to improve the agricultural management of the land and will eventually establish the property as a model farm for educational purposes. A large stream restoration project will begin in the spring of this year and will result in significant wildlife habitat and water quality improvements. To utilize the property as an educational asset, we have designed a trail that will highlight the many improvements being made to the farm, so that this special property may be shared with the public.
AmeriCorps Project Conserve members, along with SAHC staff, broke ground on the first section of trail to be built on the farm. This section of trail runs from the trail head, through the shortleaf pine restoration area, and down to the stream restoration area. Along the way, the trail traverses through heavy brush and tree re-growth, so the trail work involved cutting back blackberry and grasses to the ground with loppers and small hand saws, breaking ground with pulaskis (tools with a head shaped with an ax blade on one side and an adze on the other) to form the foot path, and grading the trail to create a finished surface for walking.
Several AmeriCorps members present at the workday are experienced sawyers, and SAHC was fortunate to have use of their skills for the removal of Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana) . Removing the Virginia Pine will allow the Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata) that is already on the Anderson Farm to flourish and will make the restoration of this declining plant community possible. While Shortleaf pine is common to the Southeast’s piedmont and mountain regions, it is in decline in North Carolina.
It was wonderful to have had so many talented and hardworking AmeriCorps Project Conserve members give the gift of their time and energy to SAHC and the Anderson Farm. While the trail work was slower going than anticipated, the work day was a great success. We accomplished a substantial part of the trail building and removed competition trees from about 2 acres of the property. The interpretive trail will be a key educational tool in allowing SAHC to share the efforts being made to restore the Anderson farm – as we make strides to improve the conservation and agricultural values back to the land.